This is not the first time that the Gandhi siblings have dealt with a crisis within the party.
She was instrumental in the Punjab and was the main mastermind behind the withdrawal of Amarinder Singh and the installation of Navjot Singh Sidhu into the party apparatus. Along with Rahul, she convinced Ashok Gehlot to welcome Sachin Pilot loyalists into the government.
After the UP polls, analysts believe Congress will need to give Priyanka Gandhi a bigger role in reaching out to leaders who are not in tune with Rahul Gandhi. Moreover, to win back the disgruntled leaders and the G-23 group, most congratulated her on the fight she waged in the UP after the Lakhimpur Kheri incident.
While she has been credited with making the party visible in UP by raising issues in a short period of time, the current investigation shows Congress may not win electorally in the state.
The party, however, sees her as a star activist in future elections and she, “ladki hun lad sakti hun” (I am a girl and I can fight) is attracting nationwide attention and marathons conducted to secure massive registrations and Congress sees it as a counter-footing to religion and caste-based politics.
By the time the Secretary General of Congress went into campaign mode, the country’s attention was absorbed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet his active intervention in Hathras and Sonbhadra pointed this out. And at the height of the migrant crisis, its offer of buses to transport those affected to their homes has won praise.
During the agitation of the farmers, too, she was in the foreground, but then the second wave hit the nation.
With Uttar Pradesh heading to the polls for next assembly early next year with Uttarakhand and Punjab, congressional leadership questioning whether Priyanka should be given a bigger, possibly pan-Indian role , in the party.
Several congressional leaders are speaking out on this issue. One of those people is Acharya Pramod Krishnam, who has said that Priyanka will be appointed chairman of the party.
Others, who are not happy with the way Rahul Gandhi’s office is functioning, suggest that Sonia Gandhi should continue as party chair and that Priyanka be appointed vice-chair in charge of North India.
When the leadership crisis hit Congress, there was a college to help Sonia Gandhi. In September of last year, a committee was set up with AK Antony, the late Ahmad Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik and Randeep Singh Surjewala as members. After Patel’s death, however, the committee met occasionally. The constitution of Congress does not provide for a vice president, but in the past Rahul Gandhi, Arjun Singh and Jitendra Prasada held this position.
Some congressional leaders believe Priyanka’s style of operation is more fluid. She is listening and has been active in defusing the crises in Rajasthan and Punjab.
Congress is mired in infighting in a number of states – Uttrakhand, Punjab, UP, Goa, Manipur and Gujarat, which are preparing to go to the polls in 2022 while MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2023, so a more important role for its means the party could bring more traction.
Part of the leadership of the Congress emphasizes that Rahul Gandhi can lead the party without holding any position. These leaders say he has targeted the government on various issues. Even his critics accept his credentials for stepping up attacks on the prime minister consistently against the pandemic and the economic crisis.
The party faces crises in Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttrakhand, Karnataka, and supporters of TS Singhdeo in Chhattisgarh will press for his appointment as chief minister after five state elections. Its supporters, however, insist the party must keep its promises to the leader who was instrumental in securing seats in the state’s tribal belt, which belonged to the BJP at the time.
Likewise, Sachin Pilot is pushing for change in Rajasthan and the party cannot afford to lose him after Jyotiraditya Scindia left and was rewarded with a place in Modi cabinet.